With the season over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Steve Sullivan.
#26 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators
Jul 06, 1974
|2010 - Steve Sullivan||44||10||12||22||4||28||3||0||1||79||12.7|
Today's report card comes from AJ in Nashville, proprietor of Pull My (Fang) Finger and one of the most eloquent bloggers (hockey or otherwise) in captivity. When he's not at Bridgestone Arena cheering on the Preds (where he's been a season ticket holder for ages), he's putting me to shame with one of most well-manicured lawns in our neighborhood. Make sure to follow him on Twitter at @ajinnashville, and follow after the jump for the scoop on Sully...
The Skinny: There aren't a whole lot of stories in Nashville Predators history that better qualify as ‘legend' than that of the arrival of Steve Sullivan in February 2004, when he scored a power play hat trick in very his first game with the team. That offensive spark turned out to be Nashville's elusive ‘missing ingredient' that would vault them into the playoffs for the first time in their history that season. However, with the very next season of play through to the present, Sully would begin a difficult circumnavigation through fits and starts of health and injury.
After missing portions or all of three consecutive NHL seasons due to back issues from 2006-07 through 2008-09, Sullivan returned healthy and strong in 2009-10. He tied for the team lead in points with 51, playing in all 82 games for just the second time in his 13-year NHL career. Hopes were high that he could again become the consistent scorer the Preds have so desperately lacked in recent years. However, 2010-11 would be yet another injury-abbreviated campaign for the Timmins, Ontario native.
The Performance: Despite a hot start that saw him register four goals and an assist in the first three games of 2010-11, Sullivan would suffer a sports hernia injury in December and finish the regular season with the second-fewest games played of any Predators regular. Only Cal O'Reilly's 38 games in the lineup were fewer than Sully's 44. Nonetheless, when he was healthy, Sullivan's half-a-point-per-game average, with 11 goals, 12 assists, and 22 points overall indicates that he still has what it takes to be a contributing member of the team. Although noticeably rusty-looking upon his return to the lineup during the playoffs, the Predators' Alternate Captain also acquitted himself well, adding secondary scoring versus Anaheim and Vancouver with a pair of goals and an assist in nine games played before going down once again - this time to a leg injury in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Grade: Sullivan's two-year, $3.7 million per season contract has now expired, making him an unrestricted free agent. It is a well-known fact that Nashville is now home to him and his family. What isn't so obvious is whether or not Sullivan can ever again be a first or second line player. During his brief return to the lineup in the playoffs, he still proved that he can be a valuable asset on the third line, however. If Sullivan's desire to remain a Predator is greater than the urge to take ‘one more shot' at a Cup with another contending team, I see him re-signing with the club at a reduced, ‘hometown' rate for one or two more years.
Last Friday, as a guest on the Wake Up Zone morning radio show, on Nashville's 104.5 The Zone, Co-host Kevin Ingram asked Steve to put on his "General Manager's cap" and talk about whether or not Preds GM David Poile might be thinking about bringing the 36 year-old winger back next season.
"Oh, if I were him I'd definitely want to bring me back," Sully said matter-of-factly. He then took what seemed like great care to confirm some things that every Preds fan has likely been wondering since season's end. Regarding Poile, Sullivan said had yet to have his exit meeting with the Preds' GM, but that it would likely be this week, and that they would of course discuss the possibility of his returning next season.
Regarding the issue of his health, Sullivan assured the Wake Up crew that the sports hernia injury that cost him half the regular season was neither chronic nor related to his previous back issues from a few seasons ago. He said he's feeling fine and is optimistic about the future. He's not ready to retire just yet.
Sullivan believes he can still help the Preds and I agree with him. I believe he deserves another shot to win a Stanley Cup with the team he considers his own. However, I also believe that he should (and will) recognize the somewhat limited value he's exhibited over the past two seasons and grant the team some consideration with equally limited demands, and an affordable, possibly incentives-heavy contract. However, for the deal under which he played this season and the bang for the buck he provided, I give Steve Sullivan a B-minus.
Note from Dirk: Now that Sully is past age 35, the Preds are allowed to structure an incentive-based deal.